FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, July 29, 2021
OTTAWA – Today, as the Trudeau Liberal government consults on its new National Action Plan for the international Open Government Partnership process, the nation-wide Open Government Coalition, Government Ethics Coalition and Money in Politics Coalition, made up of more than 70 citizen groups in total with more than three million members (all coordinated by Democracy Watch) called on the government to make commitments to strengthen open government in areas the Liberals have failed to act on since 2015.
Two years ago, during the Open Government Partnership Summit held in Ottawa, Democracy Watch gave an overall F grade in its report card on the Trudeau Liberal open government record. The Liberals haven’t improved since, as they continue to ignore many key loopholes in federal Canadian laws that allow for secret, unethical lobbying, secret donations, secret expenses, excessive secrecy overall, conflicts of interest and sole-source contracts. As well, enforcement of key democracy and good government laws is too weak, as is whistleblower protection and public consultation, and many key changes are clearly needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is effectively required to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and to prevent waste.
The Trudeau Cabinet has ignored its own MPs calling for key open government changes. The Cabinet’s Bill C-58 changing the federal Access to Information Act ignored many of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2016 report of the House of Commons Access, Privacy and Ethics Committee, and was actually a step backwards in some ways. And the Cabinet also ignored all of the recommendations made in the unanimous June 2017 House Committee report for key changes to strengthen the federal whistleblower protection system, an area in which Canada ranks below dozens of other countries.
Democracy Watch and its coalitions have been pushing for years for key transparency and integrity changes to the federal Lobbying Act, Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, and Conflict of Interest Act and related MP and Senate ethics rules. As well, opposition MPs and the Information Commissioner and the Open Government Coalition have been pushing to strengthen the Access to Information Act for years, including through a global coalition open letter in 2017.
“The Trudeau Liberals broke many of their promises to close loopholes in Canada’s open government law, and transparency rules for government spending, and they have done nothing to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who report government wrongdoing nor to close loopholes that allow secret lobbying and secret political donations,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The Trudeau Liberals’ plans, like the Harper Conservatives’ past plans, continue to focus more on making currently available information available online through open data systems than on real open government changes.”
“Secret, unethical lobbying, secret donations, secret expenses, excessive secrecy overall, and conflicts of interest and sole-source contracts are all currently legal, enforcement of key democracy and good government laws is too weak, as is whistleblower protection and public consultation, and many key changes are clearly needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is effectively required to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and to prevent waste,” said Conacher.
In all these ways, the Liberals’ proposed open government plan for the next five years violates the Open Government Partnership (OGP) requirements set out in the Open Government Declaration that all countries are required to sign. To fulfill the Declaration requirements, the Liberals’ Plan must commit to strengthening open government in every way. Their Action Plan should include measures to strengthen not only transparency laws and financial administration laws, but also federal ethics, lobbying, anti-corruption, political finance, whistleblower protection and public consultation laws, and enforcement of all these laws, in government and in the private sector.
As a result, the OGP Steering Committee should pressure the Liberals to ensure Canada’s Action Plan includes commitments to increase transparency in all these key areas of unethical, undemocratic government secrecy.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Email: [email protected]